Pre-match concerns over whether this match would take place were long forgotten when Marcelino struck a late winner in Madrid, leaving the great Lev Yashin, still superb at 34, a spectator.
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Spain 2-1 Soviet Union
(Pereda 6, Marcelino 84; Khusainov 8)
Madrid, 21 June 1964
Was there really disquiet in the build-up? Did anyone honestly believe Spain might forfeit, as they had four years earlier? At home, with the national team in with a chance of winning their first major trophy and a propaganda coup there to be exploited by their long-standing dictator? Surely not: Franco watched the match in person.
He saw José Villalonga's side make a bright start at the Santiago Bernabéu, suffer immediate deflation, then settle down for the long haul. All four Spanish goals in the tournament would be the result of crosses from the right. Here an early centre by Luis Suárez was fluffed by the defending Edouard Mudrik and hit so hard by midfielder Jesús Pereda, following up, that he leapt several feet in the air. The Soviet Union's famed goalkeeper Lev Yashin, exposed at close range, had no chance.
But then Fernando Olivella fouled Galimzyan Khusainov, who scored from the free-kick for Gavril Kachalin's team – after which two good, but not great, sides cancelled each other out. The hosts' Feliciano Rivilla, fast and intelligent, had an intriguing duel with willing frontrunner Khusainov while, for the USSR, Albert Schesternev blotted out Marcelino Martínez, although he was perhaps lucky not to concede a penalty after appearing to bring down Pereda.
Although their defenders held out capably enough, the Soviet Union's inclusion of an extra defensive midfield player, Aleksei Korneev, told against them and left fellow midfielder Valeri Voronin lacking creative support. The winner came when left-sided playmaker Suárez sent another pass out to the right; Pereda crossed and Marcelino's superb stooping header went low inside the near post. Four days later Marcelino scored the winner in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final for Real Zaragoza, also a 2-1 success, against Valencia CF.
The second UEFA European Championship tournament had been an improvement on the first, when Spain pulled out of their quarter-final with the USSR for political reasons. If the new champions were only first among equals – having also seen off Hungary in the semi-finals when the Soviets beat Denmark – their final goal was good enough to decide any match. Even the great Yashin, still superb at 34, was just a spectator.
What happened next?
As European champions, Spain automatically qualified for the 1966 FIFA World Cup yet a squad largely unchanged from two years before failed to get beyond the first round – not until UEFA EURO 2008 did Spain return to the winners' rostrum. The USSR became fixtures in the latter stages of major tournaments, reaching the last four in England in 1966 and at the 1968 UEFA European Championship, then finishing runners-up to West Germany in 1972.